Trinity did what Trinity does at Hiller Hall Monday night, and as a result, coach Kathy McConnell-Miller’s squad is one step away from a return to the WPIAL Class 5A girls basketball championship game.
The No. 1 team in 5A led by 32 points at the half, putting the mercy rule into effect for the second time in their two postseason games, and coasted to a 59-27 win over eighth-seeded Fox Chapel in the quarterfinals.
Courtney Dahlquist led all scorers with 19 points, and Alyssa Clutter added 11.
McConnell-Miller was pleased with how the night went, especially in the first 16 minutes.
“I thought it was a pretty game in the first half… In the second half, I was trying to put some nice rotations on the floor, give some younger players some experience with that. They had their starters on the floor, so the intent was there but probably not the best outcome with a running clock. It’s very difficult to play with a running clock.”
Trinity (20-1) has had to play with a running clock quite a bit this season, and strangely enough, Monday night was one of the closer games the Hillers played in 2021. Fox Chapel (12-9) kept it to within 35, which has only happened nine times in Trinity’s 21 games. The Foxes beat Ringgold and Penn Hills to get to the quarterfinal but will go no further. Ellie Schwartzman led the way in scoring for Fox Chapel with 11 points.
In the first half, Trinity got a boost in scoring from an unexpected source. Senior Emily Venick is a pass-first point guard, a throwback of sorts. Against Fox Chapel, however, Venick made some noise offensively in the first half, scoring nine points. Although she never reached double figures, it was a change of pace. For McConnell-Miller, however, scoring is secondary to everything else her floor general brings to the table,
“She’s the heart and soul of the team,” McConnell-Miller said. “We go as she goes. High energy. Great ball pressure. Always looking to compliment her teammates. Scoring is not her priority. Her priority is to make her team better.”
Venick felt it was important for her to step up, with the Foxes keying in on some of her teammates.
“They were boxing Alyssa (Clutter), they had someone on Courtney (Dahlquist). They were kind of in like the zone, and then that left me, Kaylin (Venick) and Ashley (Durig). We were like ‘we have to make something happen.’ Whatever is best for the team, that’s what I do.”
The star of the night offensively was once again Dahlquist, who went 5 for 8 from beyond-the-arc. The Campbell University signee missed the last two games of the regular season nursing an ankle, but has averaged more than 20 points per game thus far in the playoffs. McConnell-Miller is confident that Dqhlquist is back at full speed.
“We have a great training staff that just dedicated themselves to getting her healthy, along with her dedication to getting healthy,” she said. “So we feel like she’s at 100 percent full strength. She feels good, and she’s been practicing full go. So we’re really pleased with where she is.”
Now, the only team standing in between the Hillers and a return trip to the Peterson Events Center is the Woodland Hills Wolverines, who gutted out a 48-44 win over Thomas Jefferson in the other 5A quarterfinal. The Hillers ended Woodland Hills’ season in 2020, and both teams have a lot returning from that matchup, with the Wolverines being led by senior Peyton Pinkney.
“They pretty much have the same team back, with the exception of a post player,” McConnell-Miller said.
For Venick, if Trinity does the things it’s been doing all season, the Hillers will be just fine going forward.
“Honestly, just play the way that we know how to play, because the only team that can beat us is ourselves,” she said.